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Stansfield, William (1874–1946)

by A. J. Hill

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

William Stansfield (1874-1946), by unknown photographer, 1916

William Stansfield (1874-1946), by unknown photographer, 1916

Australian War Memorial, J00918 [with Col. Harold Arthur Maunder, right]

William Stansfield (1874-1946), railway officer and soldier, was born on 19 November 1874 at Wadsworth, Yorkshire, England, son of Mitchell Stansfield, master bootmaker, and his wife Margaret Jane, née Forrester. The family migrated to Queensland in 1887, settling in Brisbane where William attended Kelvin Grove State School. He became a printer and, on 13 December 1897, married Amy Louisa Rogers at Ann Street oval with Methodist forms; they were to have three sons and two daughters.

In 1898 Stansfield entered the administration of the Queensland State Railways where he worked until 1914. His career as a soldier had begun in January 1900 when he enlisted in the militia in the Moreton Regiment. Transferred in 1905 to the Australian Army Service Corps, he was promoted warrant officer, class 2, in 1908 and commissioned second lieutenant in 1911.

On 20 August 1914 Stansfield enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and was posted to the 1st Light Horse Brigade Train. He was appointed brigade supply officer with the rank of captain in October. Landing at Anzac with his brigade on 12 May 1915, he was made officer commanding the beach supply depot of the New Zealand and Australian Division, of which the brigade was part. In August he returned to his brigade and was responsible for its supplies until the eve of the evacuation in December.

When Major General (Sir) Harry Chauvel formed the Anzac Mounted Division in Egypt in March 1916, he gave his former supply officer command of all the Divisional A.A.S.C. units and promoted him major. In the operations of April 1916–April 1917 that saw the Turkish thrust for the Suez Canal crushed at Romani, Sinai cleared of the enemy and two attempts on Gaza, Stansfield proved himself a master of movement and supply. Consequently, when the Desert Mounted Corps was formed in August 1917, Chauvel made Stansfield—by then a lieutenant-colonel—his assistant director of supply and transport. The operations that began with the capture of Beersheba on 31 October 1917 placed enormous demands on the logistic services, yet British officers were reported to have remarked: 'the Australians always seemed to have their supplies up with them … if resource and energy could work miracles the Australian supply officers deserve the credit for them'. The award (rare in the Army Service Corps) of the Distinguished Service Order in December 1917 crowned Stansfield's achievements.

In 1918 he supplied the Desert Mounted Corps in the malaria-ridden Jordan Valley during static operations which were punctuated by the unsuccessful attempt to capture Es Salt, 1 April–4 May. The battles beginning at Megiddo on 19 September, and the capture of Damascus and Aleppo after advances of some 300 to 500 miles (483-805 km), tested Stansfield's organization to the limit. Not least of his problems was the maintenance of tens of thousands of prisoners. For his 'continuous zeal and ability' and his success in these operations, Stansfield was appointed C.M.G. He was mentioned in dispatches three times in 1917-19.

Returning to Brisbane, he was discharged in October 1919 and slipped quietly back into his old job in the railways. When Sir Harry Chauvel came to Brisbane in December 1919 he praised Stansfield's 'wonderful organization … [and] efficient work [which] made the great advance … possible'. Disturbed to find Stansfield in such a humble post, Chauvel approached the head of Queensland's railways who appointed Stansfield inspector of passenger rolling stock on 1 January 1920. During the royal visits of 1927 and 1934 Stansfield was State transport officer for Queensland.

He joined the A.A.S.C. of the 1st Division, Australian Military Forces, in 1921, in the rank of captain with the brevet of major. He was promoted lieutenant-colonel in 1922, commanding Headquarters 5th Divisional Train and all A.A.S.C. units in the 1st Military District (Queensland) for five years. Placed on the retired list in 1937 as honorary colonel, he returned again as assistant director of remounts, Northern Command, in 1939. His final retirement came in April 1941. Survived by his wife and children, Stansfield died in (Royal) Brisbane Hospital on 19 May 1946 and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • H. S. Gullett, The A.I.F. in Sinai and Palestine (Syd, 1923)
  • A. J. Hill, Chauvel of the Light Horse (Melb, 1978)
  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 21 May 1946
  • A.A.S.C. records for Egypt and Palestine (Australian War Memorial).

Citation details

A. J. Hill, 'Stansfield, William (1874–1946)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/stansfield-william-8625/text15069, published in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 1 August 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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